At-Home Training Program for Our Young Students

We understand that COVID-19 is causing many significant events, schools, and other social gatherings to cancel their events. In the wake of this extraordinary situation, many families are choosing (or ordered by the Governor) to self-isolate. Therefore, we are taking pro-active measures to help students stay on course.

Our school has partnered up with one of the leading children’s martial arts organizations in the world to participate in an International At-home Training Program! Over 1000 schools all across the globe are participating in this 2-week event!

These training videos include age-specific lessons that are fun to follow while targeting your child’s stage of development. You can print the planner from the notes section of our Facebook page and follow along with the video for fun training with some of the best martial arts instructors in our industry.

Here’s how you access the planners

In your browser, go to our Facebook page, and select the appropriate age group for your child or children.

Download the planners, take pictures (or videos) of your child training and then email us or post it in our Facebook group, and your child will get class credit.

Don’t worry that these planners are different from a typical class. The goal is to keep your kid’s body and brain learning while we are on break! These planners can be taught by parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, babysitters, or anyone at home.

Links to the Video Lessons

These links bring you to the ‘On The Mat’ YouTube videos for each planner. You can follow along with the instructor and students. Repeat the lessons as much as you like.

Little Ninja Tots (3 and 4-year olds)

Week 1 Lesson 1:

Week 1 Lesson 2:

Week 2 Lesson 3:

Week 2 Lesson 4:

Little Ninjas (5 and 6-year olds)

Week 1 Lesson 1:

Week 1 Lesson 2:

Week 2 Lesson 3:

Week 2 Lesson 4:

Little Ninjas (7 to 9-year olds)

Week 1 Lesson 1:

Week 1 Lesson 2:

Week 2 Lesson 3:

Week 2 Lesson 4:

Ninja Warriors (10 to 14-year olds)

Week 1 Lesson 1:

Week 1 Lesson 2:

Week 2 Lesson 3:

Week 2 Lesson 4:

Benefits for You and Your Child

The even better news is that your child will get class credit for following each planner! Email our school or make a post in our school Facebook group with a picture or video of your ninja training, and we will add a class credit to your record for each planner.

Wait, there’s more.

At-Home Training Point Challenge

True champions find ways to succeed while others find ways to make excuses. Our goal for this challenge is to help each child reach an entirely new level in their personal martial arts journey by going the extra mile with their training. Each week has specific training challenges that will help every student to earn points. The more points your child receives, the more entries they get to win!

Week 1 Point Challenge Total:

  • Participate in class (10)
  • Post a video practicing your form (5)
  • Post a video doing the Week 1 Instructor Challenge (5)
  • Post a video practicing kicks and combs (5)
  • Post a video of you practicing your favorite move (5)

Week 2 Point Challenge Total:

  • Participate in class (10)
  • Post a video practicing your form (5)
  • Post a video doing the Week 2 Instructor Challenge (5)
  • Post a video teaching your combos to a family member (5)
  • Post a video of you practicing your kicks ten times (5)

Week 3 Point Challenge Total:

  • Participate in class (10)
  • Post a video practicing your form (5)
  • Post a video doing the Week 3 Instructor Challenge (5)
  • Post a video practicing kicks and combs (5)
  • Post a video of you practicing your favorite move (5)

Week 4 Point Challenge Total:

  • Participate in class (10)
  • Post a video practicing your form (5)
  • Post a video doing the Week 3 Instructor Challenge (5)
  • Post a video practicing kicks and combs (5)
  • Post a video teaching your kicks to a family member (5)

Share this with anyone else you know who practices martial arts. They can win too. Remember to post these videos on our Facebook page, or tag them with #goldenleopard #kempochallenge #athometraining

On behalf of our entire team, we thank you in advance for your participation in this program and look forward to seeing all the awesome pictures and videos!

Wash your hands, and stay healthy. Don’t stop training! See you on the other side.

How Does Rotating Curriculum Work?

As an instructor with a large class, I came across problems teaching so many people of different ranks. The prototypical solution is to divide the class into ranks and have each rank group work on different lessons. This division requires lots of room and very little time correcting the students. Also, I’m teaching four to five different things in the class. There is no consistency or connection to previous courses. Each rank group gets a portion of the period. For a half-hour section and three rank groups, that’s ten minutes for the sub-group. Breaking up the class is inefficient.

Another solution I learned was to get assistants to help teach. Now the rank groups get a full 30 minutes of instruction but not with the lead instructor. The rank group gets a senior student or a junior instructor, often volunteering. When do the assistants get their class? The problem with this method is the assistant instructors may not show up (because they volunteer), or the costs of hiring additional staff are high.

About Phases, Cycles, and Levels

I went to a training seminar for professional martial arts instructors and learned about a better method of teaching classes for large groups. It’s called a rotating curriculum. I teach the same material to the whole class at the same time. There is no need to break up the class by rank. How is this possible?

  • Divide the belt ranks into beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels.
  • Different belts ranks will be at each level. For instance, White, Yellow, and Gold belts are at the beginner level.
  • Divided classes into beginner, intermediate, and advanced level classes at different times or days of the week.
  • The material for each belt rank is a Phase. A Phase ends in a rank test.
  • Colored belt ranks are divorced from particular techniques. For instance, the Yellow Belt material is now Phase 2 material.

What do I review at the test for different ranks? I evaluate the Phase material taught at that cycle. The limited format means the test is shorter, and the class performs together, synchronized as a team, and I can test a larger group of students. Since everyone is doing the same material, it is easier to score the test. The benefits to the instructor (me) are better student quality and retention.

What happens to new students after the first cycle? The new student starts learning the next Phase with the rest of the class. For my students, I have them organized into three groups, A, B, and C. New students are in one of those groups based on when they join the school. Below is the table detailing how it works.

Table 1: Phase Progression Order in a Rotating Curriculum

The student cycle is the cycle number of the student’s career. They generally move from I to IX through their journey to Black Belt. However, they may not start with Phase 1. They could begin with Phase 2 or Phase 3. The table shows which Phase they advance to after the test.

By the end of the beginner level, the student will know all of the material from all three ranks. The same thing occurs at the intermediate and advanced levels. Testing for Black Belt, all the students will have the same content.

The only issue that this method of teaching causes is the change in class times. Once you test out of the beginner level, the intermediate class is at a different time or day. The same thing happens when a student promotes out of intermediate and enters the advanced classes. However, I did do something like this anyway. During my La Mesa dojo days, I had a special White-Yellow belt class and a Brown Belt class in addition to the regular class. So the difference in my school is negligible.

An Example Students Training Life

Using the table above, let’s use a new student’s life as an example. Maria joins Golden Leopard Kempo during the third cycle, so she is in group C. In her beginner class, she learns the old Gold Belt material first. After her first test, her class will learn the old White Belt material. And her next Phase, she learns the old Yellow Belt material. Using the table above, we see she learned Phase 3, then Phase 1, and then Phase 2. Maria has absorbed all the basic curriculum (kata, counters, and drills) and is ready for the next level.

When she promotes to the intermediate class, Maria learns the old Purple belt material first. After her test, the class will learn the old Orange belt material. Finally, in the sixth cycle, she’ll learn the old Red Belt material. To summarize, Maria learned Phase 6, then Phase 4, and then Phase 5 material. Maria has absorbed all the intermediate curriculum (kata, counters, and drills) and is ready for the next level.

At last, Maria enters the advance class and is a model student at her school. The first Phase she learns is 9, which is the old Brown Belt material. After the test, Maria learns the old Blue Belt material. In her last advance cycle, she learns the old Green Belt material and is now ready to test for Black Belt.

What happens is this, Maria is a Blue Belt knowing Brown Belt material. At any level, the difference between the technical content is not that different. There is a difference between content at the beginner and advanced level, which is why I divide these classes. When Maria is a Green Belt, she’ll know Brown and Blue Belt material. And at Brown Belt, Maria will know all the content for all three Phases of advanced level.

Benefits of Rotating Curriculum

Now, this may seem not very easy for you in this explanation, but I promise you it is effortless to understand in implementation. It flows naturally from Phase to Phase, and through cycles. The benefits are immense. Classes are better because I instruct all three ranks in the same class at the same time teaching the same material. The rotating curriculum brings high energy classes, organization, manageability, excitement, teamwork, and unity to the student program and students’ learning.

The rotating curriculum also requires less staff for maximum results. I don’t need a ton of assistants when two or one will do. The class can handle more students to teacher ratios because of the simplified curriculum. Tests are more comfortable to run because I can maintain high energy and unison during the session, and the test can be huge. Also, the examiners are only looking at a smaller set of curriculum.

Our cycles run ten weeks, with five cycles per year. That’s 50 weeks of class per year, including our standard two weeks off for the holidays. 

That’s a quick explanation of the rotating curriculum and how we implement this method in our school. At Golden Leopard Kempo, we are always looking for ways to improve our teaching methods. We practice the Constant and Never-ending Improvement philosophy in our school. The commitment to improvement led me to implement a rotating curriculum, and I am pleased with the results.

‟There are no bad students, just bad teachers.” – Mr. Miyagi, The Karate Kid.

What Rank is My Child When She Promotes or Ages Out of Her Program?

Our Children’s Curriculum runs differently than our Adult Curriculum. First, we divide the curriculum into age group programs: 3-4 years old, 5-6 years old, 8-10 years old, and 11-14 years old. This helps all the students learn because they are with their peers, not younger or older kids.

  • During the enrollment session, each child goes through an evaluation to see if they are mature enough to begin training at our school and at which program she should start.
  • Our programs are organized by maturity level. We use a student’s age range as a starting point for the evaluation.
  • We educate and teach Kempo through skill-based games.
  • There are three levels, beginner, intermediate, and advanced, each with three ranks for a total of nine belts.
  • Students gain a skill stripe on the second or third exposure to the skill after they pass the skill requirement for that stripe.
  • Once a student gets all the stripes, the student can test out of the belt rank.
  • The program teaches martial arts skills, not techniques found in the Adult program. See my article on Kempo Karate for Toddlers about how skills are better than techniques for younger Peewee students.

Each program has nine belt ranks that they learn in order, three beginner ranks, three intermediate ranks, and three advanced ranks. There are two issues with this structure. First, a student completes all nine ranks before being old enough to graduate to the next program. Or, a student gets older because of a birthday or growth spurt and is now ages out of the program.

Let’s tackle the first issue. The student graduates from the final belt rank in their current program. The new belt rank is the first intermediate rank of the new program. In our school, that’s Orange Belt. The first three ranks in the program are the entire curriculum of the previous program. This is how all four programs are set up. The student now learns new material because the student has demonstrated competence during the last course.

The next issue is a bit more complicated. If a student has a birthday or has a maturity growth spurt, she may be ready for another program. In this aging out situation, the Enrollment Advisor re-evaluates the student for the next program, just as if they were new students. Two things will happen. If the student passes the evaluation, she will move to the next program after her next belt rank test.

Current Rank New Program Rank
White, Yellow White
Gold, Orange, Red Yellow
Purple, Blue, Green Gold
Brown Orange

If the student doesn’t pass the evaluation for the new program, she stays in the current program. She will get a further assessment after the next test, as directed by her instructor.

We found this system works the best for all children involved. Remember, the age range is a guideline, not a rule. Children mature at different times. The maturity of the student’s emotional capability, coordination, and following-directions ability can, and often are, at different stages. We want the best fit for all our students. Trust in our system of placement.

No student is behind if they are at a different age program than their age. Our entire breath of children’s programs is our way of developing the best student martial artist. It’s not a race through the ranks. We want excellent martial arts skills, and we want these skills to build carefully and deliberately. There are no short cuts. We find that once the students hit middle school age, their previous training in our programs will catapult their technical skills in the following programs. Patience pays off.

The transition from program to program is consistent and fair for everyone involved. Our age-based classes also have a different teacher to student ratios. The younger children have a smaller ratio, while the older children have a higher ratio. This focus on each student’s ability and instructor’s attention is what makes our dojo school extraordinary.

If you have any questions, please contact your Enrollment Advisor.

What are Kata Segments?

A kata is a traditional floor routine of kicks, punches, and body movements in a pre-defined order. The moves represent martial techniques. In my article, Forms in Practice, I discuss why kata or forms are essential and how to improve your performance. I also talk about the effectiveness of kata practice for the student.

At Golden Leopard Kempo, kata are between 18 to 26 moves. We clump sets of kata together to form a long kata. Learning kata is the most common difficulty in learning Kempo. To make it easier, using ghestalting, we chunk the moves into small segments of the kata. Think of it as chopping up the kata into small sections. I have heard this called Line Drills, but I use the term drills when it involves two or more students.

We practice a chunk, the segment, of the kata in unison as a class so each student can see each other. By doing the exercise in unison, the student can practice the correct movement. Teaching forms in this manner helps the absolute beginner grasp the flavor of a particular kata.

It is easier if every student works on the same material at the same time. There are slight differences between the segment and the kata. The segments may have additional moves to make it practical for class and student management. For example, the segment may have a 180° turn and repeat the step while the kata doesn’t. ‛Turn and repeat’ facilitates class instruction.

This method of teaching kata helps in memorization and muscle memory. The kata segment aids memory retention and taps into group memory—more mental references provided by other students to support memory encoding and recall.

Once the kata segments are sufficiently memorized and practiced, learning the full kata sequence becomes easier. The student now has to remember section A, then section B, then section C, rather than 15 separate moves. We are using ghestalting to chunk our material into rememberable parts. The student recalls three items, not 15 items. Chunking reduces memory overload. We do this to remember our punch defenses, kick defenses, and kempos. Now, we use the same method for recalling kata.

It may seem strange that so a modern Kempo instructor would place so much emphasis on kata practice. Kata are not en vogue in contemporary arts. However, I have found that kata provides better body movement, transitions, and rootedness in my kata-practicing students. It is a fast way to get the nuanced qualities I seek in a student from the student. I implore you to consider keeping kata practice a focus of your training. And use our kata segments as a way to learn the kata efficiently.

Blocks from Canada

karate kata 1I got an email regarding my last post on Blocking Sets from my friend and fellow instructor Marlon Anthony Wilson. Here’s what he had to say:

Interestingly I added a “blocking set” to my white belt curriculum.

  1. Advance block 1
  2. Advance block 2
  3. Go back block 3
  4. Go back block 4
  5. Turn block 5 (turn to 6:00)
  6. Advance block 6
  7. Turn block 7 (turn to 12:00)
  8. Advance block 8
  9. close

I use it to help emphasize stepping heel to toe when moving forward and toe to heel when stepping back. As well as “everything moves together – everything stops together.”

Nice to see your write up.

Thanks for your response. Stay warm up north during this harsh winter.

Moving Blocking Set 1

Correcting a child's body positionMoving sets allows the students to practice blocking techniques while moving and against a prearranged, predictable attack. We use these for white and yellow belts after they learn how to move (Half-moon steps) and how to block (blocking set 1). Now the student needs to do both at the same time — a real challenge at first.

Moving Set #1a (Two person)
Half moon backward, perform block 1
Half moon backward, perform block 2
Half moon backward, perform block 3
Half moon backward, perform block 4
Half moon backward, perform block 5
Half moon backward, perform block 6
Half moon backward, perform block 7
Half moon backward, perform block 8

Half moon forward, perform a punch
Half moon forward, perform a punch
Half moon forward, perform a shuto
Half moon forward, perform a shuto
Half moon forward, perform a hammer
Half moon forward, perform a hammer
Half moon forward, perform a low punch or front kick
Half moon forward, perform a low punch or front kick

Moving Set #1b (Solo)
Half moon forward, perform block 1
Half moon forward, perform block 2
Half moon backward, perform block 3
Half moon backward, perform block 4
Pivot to the right, perform block 5
Half moon turn 180, perform block 6
Half moon in a horse stance facing front, perform blocks 7 and 8

The last set is much like a mini-kata and should be thought of as a practice technique to synchronize moving and hitting. Remember that blocks are strikes towards an offensive strike. Do you have another way of practicing blocks? Let me know.

You Do What You Practice

Setting up for an arm lock

Setting up for an arm lock

The most important aspect of martial arts practice, especially for Kempo, is actually working the techniques on human bodies. Partner work is very important because you develop the muscle memory in this type of training. Partner training also provides visual feedback about where the opponent is hit and how does the opponent reacts. By working with various body sizes, weights and abilities, you get a sense for how different people will react and how you can adjust for variations.

Often times when classmates work together, they go soft on each other. They don’t want to hit the sensitive or vital points. Aim for the target you wish to hit. Don’t practice missing on purpose just to be nice to your fellow student. It develops bad habits and faulty muscle memory. Rather, stop before you hit the target. It is easier to add more power and distance to your strike than it is to redirect bad muscle memory.

But what about the dreaded horse stance? How is that useful?

It teaches you proper knee orientation and weight distribution. The horse stance conditions the knees, legs, and hips for what is expected of them during Kempo techniques and kata. But it is not a fighting stance.

A master from another art once asked me why we practice from a horse stance. I gave him my patent answer, the one I give my students and accept as an instructor. But he didn’t buy it. He felt it was more important to practice the stances you are going to use from the beginning. Going through phases in stance work is not good for the student and slows down active defense skill.

Now I have to re-evaluate how I teach others. I still haven’t changed the method of instruction yet but this conversation still lingers in my mind. It speaks to a truth about training that can not be rejected just because our methods work too. His insight is very telling about the effectiveness of Kyu-ranked students — they are lacking in adequate fighting skills due to our training crutches.

The focus of all our drilling and memorization is to hone our physical skills. This feeds into something that isn’t done nearly enough in most schools and definitely needs more repetition in our schools — doing drills. These are important to develop timing, gauging, and balance when working with another person. In Arnis, the drills “picking” and “sinawali” are great examples of this.

Have you ever worked on a drill that you thought were great? Let us know in the comments. Also, if you ever did something you practiced in class but it didn’t work right in the field, I’d love to hear about it too.

Kicking Sets

Great side kick.Kempo is known for its fast hand work, wrist locks, and rapid-fire punches. We aren’t known for our kicking skills. Though it may be due to Kempo masters’ belly size, I rather attribute it to a lack of focus in class. Kempo emphasizes keeping the left and right hand balanced. This concept should also apply to hands and feet. Below are four of our kicking routines.

Kicking Set #1
Half moon forward with a front ball kick (4 times)
Half moon backward with front ball kick (4 times)
Repeat with different kick

Kicking Set #2
Half moon forward with a front ball kick
While still in a crane stance, pivot and side blade kick to the front
Set the foot down in a half moon stance to new direction (the kicking leg is the rear leg)
Repeat until you’re facing the front
Repeat with the other leg
Repeat with lead leg

Kicking Set #3
Perform series of kicks down a straight line.
Alternate legs.
Turn in a fighting stance and repeat down the line again.

Kick series:

  • Roundhouse, spinning back and front ball kick.
  • Crescent, spinning reverse crescent and roundhouse.
  • Crescent, spinning wheel, roundhouse.
  • Roundhouse, spinning hook, spinning axe.
  • Dragon tail sweep, dragon tail sweep, front two knuckle punch.

Note that each series should require you to repeat the same kicks using the other leg. Keep both legs balanced.

Kicking Set #4
Attacker kicks
Defender slap blocks and returns kick
Defender becomes new Attacker and kicks with the other leg
Repeat at brisk pace

GM Gascon told me that we rarely kick above the belt because the hands are better forms of attack for that area. Likewise, the kick is an excellent attack for the legs and pelvis. However, we should practice our kicks high and fast to develop flexibility, speed, and accuracy.

I hope you enjoy these insights into our curriculum. If you have kicking exercises you’d like to share, email them to me. I turned off comment section recently because nothing but spam appears in the comments. I’d love to add some other examples from other schools, especially Kempo schools.

5 Ways to Practice Your Combinations

Pinning the attacker

Pin the attacker

Martial arts training is filled with repetition. It is an instructors job to disguise repetition and to enhance students’ abilities. In our style of Kempo, we have a set of predefined techniques that we practice. Kata is made up of these Combinations, which is the bunkai or application of the kata. These techniques are used for grading and testing. Class is filled with performing these combinations to the air and with partners. How can we mix up this stale system and breath new life into our repetitious rut? Try these new ways of practicing your combinations.

  1. Kata style: Start with the first technique and do each on right after the finishing the previous technique. Do not adjust your facing. The goal is to have as little time between the performance of each technique as possible.
  2. Five by Five: To engrain the combinations into your mind, practice smaller groups of techniques. I suggest doing five combinations in a row, and repeating that set five times. Then move on to the next set of five techniques. This will help improve your memory and provide enough practice of the combinations to provide improvement.
  3.  Left sided: As a student, we began training our combinations against a left-handed attacker at Black Belt. At my school, we start earlier because it provides so much benefit to the student. About Green Belt, practice the easiest five combinations reversing the sides, add another five combinations at Brown Belt. This method is a mirror of the right sided technique. In other words, a left punch becomes a right punch and a right block becomes a left block.
  4. On your back: Lay on your back and attempt to perform your combinations from the floor. This method requires a lot of visualization, imagination, and adaptation. The techniques will not be the same rather they will be essentially the same. For example, Combination 12 starts with a left kick and then spinning back kick. From the floor, you spin into a donkey kick (hands on the floor supporting your back kick), and continue to spin up to a fighting stance.
  5. Armed: My favorite way of practicing combinations is with a pocket stick or yawara. Hold the stick in your hand with a bit protruding from both sides of your fist. Perform your combinations as normal but utilize the stick to hook, strike and poke the opponent anytime you would normally use your hand for a strike. Like before, it requires visualization, imagination, and adaptation.

Though our combinations are set and predefined, that is not their real application. Kempo techniques are tools in your tool belt. You use them in any order and adapt them to the reactions of the attacker. You must flow with the attack, adapting and adjusting as needed. Real fights do not go as scripted in kata or in the combinations. When these variations are combined with the Triple I training, your techniques will become very effective.

Perfect practice prevents piss-poor performance. Train hard, train often, and train repetitiously.

Bo Staff course

tie headbandI was looking through my notes and decided to post the Bo Staff course for my students to review.

Push ups
Sit ups
Side-to-side walk

Required Kata
1. Shu-shi no kon
2. Chu-on no kon
3. Saku-gawa no kon
4. Tsuken no kon

Hojo Undo (Basic drills)
Set 1: Strikes
1. Jo dan uchi
2. Kubi uchi
3. Chudan uchi
4. Gedan uchi
5. Nodo zuki

Set 2: Blocks
1. Jo dan uke
2. Kubi uke
3. Yoko uke
4. Gedan uke
5. Nodo kake uke

Set 3: Grip changing
1. Jo dan uchi
2. Kubi uchi
3. Yoko uchi
4. Gedan uchi
5. Kake uke tsuki (zen kutsu dachi/neko ashi dachi)

Set 4: Partner Drills
1. Head defense
2. Temple defense
3. Rib defense
4. Knee defense
5. Throat defense

Set 5: Shu-shi Complex
8 steps of the routine

Set 6: Block and counter
1. Gedan yoko uke, kubi uchi
2. Gedan yoko harai uke, nuki
3. Suna kake
4. Osa-e
5. Shitte, gyaku zuki

Perform the sets first, then you learn the kata. The partner drills are key in developing good timing and accuracy with the bo. It’s a lot like stick fighting (arnis) with a six foot stick. Also note that you can think of the staff as a spear too. Become flexible with how you think of bunkai and the weapons you use.

I hope you enjoy this and I’ll look for other notes.